I understand that this is the time that one would make a brief contribution on this Motion. I am very sorry to be doing it now in a sense because my noble friend the Minister in effect wound up the proceedings on the Bill when she was answering the amendments. However, I was not to know that she was going to do that. I want to make a very brief speech and congratulate all those who have campaigned for this measure on their success. However, in doing that, I ask them to bear in mind that although this may be a day of unqualified rejoicing for them, many in our country, who by no stretch of the imagination could be called either homophobic or bigoted, are unhappy about this Bill. They are unhappy about it because it changes the structure of society by changing the definition of marriage.
I hope that all those who enter into marriage under its new definition will, indeed, live happily every after, but the sincerity of that wish in no sense prevents my saying to them, “I understand that you feel euphoric today but please have a thought for those who have different views and for the many, not just thousands but millions of people in this country, for whom marriage will always be equated with what remains in this Bill the Christian definition of marriage”. I hope that in recognising that, they will also remember the great Churchillian motto: magnanimity in victory.
Those who support the Bill have won; there is no doubt about that. It would be churlish and ridiculous to pretend otherwise and I, for one, would never do so. I hope that the divisions in our society which I fear will not come to pass. For my part, I will do my best, in whatever way I can, to ensure that they do not. However, if we are to have a society that is not embittered, and bitterness is the most corrosive of all emotions, it is important that both sides of this argument recognise the validity of the other side. The noble Lord, Lord Alli, for whom I have developed a very real regard during these debates, is, indeed, a doughty campaigner and has every right to feel pleased with the result of his campaign. However, I say to him, and through him, “Please remember the millions of decent people for whom this is not a day of rejoicing”.